World Experts gather at Wayne State to explore injuries due to blast exposure

DETROIT - Experts from around the world will gather at Wayne State University to share research on blast injuries, including “mild” Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI), which is being called the signature wound of the Iraq War.

Wayne State’s Department of Biomedical Engineering will host the Blast Injury Symposium Thursday, May 15 and Friday, May 16, 2008 at the McGregor Memorial Conference Center on its Detroit campus.

The two-day symposium will draw internationally known researchers to address several key aspects of blast injury, presenting data on highly relevant topics, including blast injury models, protective equipment, vehicle safety, injury diagnosis and treatment.

David Woodruff, the brother of ABC news anchor and traumatic brain injury victim Bob Woodruff, will be the Thursday keynote speaker. Bob Woodruff’s brain injury, sustained during his coverage of the Iraq War, drew national attention to the pervasiveness of traumatic brain injuries among U.S. troops. David Woodruff will discuss how his brother’s TBI affected him personally and how this syndrome debilitates countless American soldiers.

Blast injuries to US troops and bystanders are being called the signature wound of the current military conflicts. In fact, roadside bombs, also called improvised explosive devices (IEDs), account for almost 80 percent of all wounds to US troops and are directly related to most TBI cases. Many troops caught near these explosions suffer symptoms such as perforated eardrums, ringing in the ears, blurred vision, memory lapses, headaches, and more long-lasting effects.

Researchers from Wayne State’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, which is conducting landmark research on mild TBI with funding from the U.S. Office of Naval Research, are chairing the symposium.

“Thousands of soldiers have suffered brain injury, and, although they may be experiencing symptoms, they may not understand,” said Pam VandeVord, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and co-director of the conference.
We’re working hard to understand how the brain injury is occurring and what can be done to prevent and treat it.”

Currently, there is little knowledge about the diagnosis and treatment of mild TBI. Unanswered questions remain about how changes in air pressure caused by a blast can result in brain damage even when there is no sign of external physical trauma.

Ibolja Cernak, from the Applied Physics Laboratory of the Johns Hopkins University, will present the keynote on Friday. Dr. Cernak has 20 years experience in both clinical and experimental blast injury research, as well as clinical management of blast injured patients. She has been recognized as one of the world's authorities on explosion-induced neurotrauma, and as such has been invited to present at various international forums.

“We are very excited to have two, very prominent, keynote speakers for the conference,” said Cynthia Bir, associate professor of biomedical engineering and co-chair of the conference. “By bringing together researchers from around the world, we hope to provide an environment that will foster further collaboration in a much needed research area.”

Bir and VandeVord have invited speakers representing several universities, military research institutions, and various companies from all over the United States and Canada.